This page lists questions and answers from the C-Change GrassToGas project’s PA Extension newsletter. To be added to the newsletter mailing list, contact GrassToGas@psu.edu.
1. Question: Is switchgrass a good feedstock for biogas digesters?
Answer: Not usually. Anaerobic digestion involves microscopic organisms that eat energy-rich components such as sugars. Lignocellulosic biomass, such as switchgrass, contains sugars, but is structured in a way that specifically prevents easy access to its energy-rich components. Because of the limited accessibility to the energy-rich …
What is it?
The Grass-to-gas project is a 5-year, USDA-funded project that carries out research, extension, and education programs aimed at developing new approaches to Anaerobic Digestion that are economically beneficial to farmers and ecologically beneficial to farms.
The project is led by Iowa State University and Penn State University, with a team of partner farmers and companies all working together to grow this opportunity.
Demonstration Farms, where perennial grass production, cover crops, and their use in biogas …
The USDA has sponsored the development of a new series of extension materials designed specifically with new farmers in mind. Called “Energy Answers for the Beginning Farmer & Rancher”, it utilizes farm energy experts from university extension programs across the country to answer hot-topic energy questions. The main product of the project is a series of short, engaging videos and resources that give useful tips and information on-farm energy.
Featured videos include:
NEWBio research discovers social, cultural, and economic motives behind local bioenergy decisions.
Landowner and other stakeholder responses to bioenergy crop production play a critical role in the bioenergy industry’s future. NEWBio’s Human Systems Team set out to understand the social, cultural, and economic factors that drive decisions about bioenergy development in the Northeast U.S. Drawing from social science disciplines, the team found evidence that social-cultural and economic factors of bioenergy …
NEWBio shows producers new methods that can save them sizable costs in their biomass operations, including a 20% reduction in harvesting.
Figure 1. Bioenergy supply chain from the production of dedicated energy crops through harvesting, storage, preprocessing and transportation to an end user. Courtesy of Tom Richard.
Harvesting, preprocessing, and storing biomass and then transporting it to biorefineries or other end users is a critical part of the bioenergy supply chain. Those functions can account for more than half the …
Breeding new perennial grass varieties of willow and switchgrass with useful bioenergy traits for the Northeast drives NEWBio team.
Shrub Willow Canopy. Photo credit: Armen Kemanian.
Perennial crops dedicated to biomass production are just starting to be developed. Most existing varieties of potential feedstock crops, such as switchgrass, have been bred for use as forage or conservation. But new varieties with traits that bioenergy producers require, especially high yields of biomass, will be a boon to a growing bioenergy industry. …
Example Analyses of the Wood Chips and Paperboard Manufacturing Industries as Biomass Markets.
Greene Team pellets. Photo: NEWBio
The production of biofuels is a primary intended use for biomass. Because the cellulosic biofuels industry is still developing, there is not yet sufficient capacity in biofuel refineries to utilize biomass crops grown for cellulosic biofuels. However, the bioeconomy overall is growing, and many products other than biofuels can be manufactured from biomass. These byproducts may be alternate markets [i] for …
By including landowners in conversations about bioenergy crops such as switchgrass, willow and Miscanthus, experts are more likely to promote adoption than by just providing new information.
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Current efforts to engage landowners on the topic of dedicated energy crops may fall short due to a crucial assumption made …
The Northeast region of the United States (from the Ohio River to the New England coast) has the natural, social, and technological resources needed to help create a sustainable, rural renaissance by using biomass to create biofuels, biopower, and advanced bioproducts. The Northeast Woody/Warm-Season Biomass Consortium (NEWBio) believes that the path to this vision is through collaboration with commercial innovators along various points of the bioeconomy supply chain. NEWBio’s commercial collaborators, biomass-based …
Biofuel perennial grass and woody crops provide significant benefits for humankind.
Pollinator on shrub willow. Photo: Giuseppe Tumminello, U. Syracuse.
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What Is an Ecosystem Service?
A functioning ecosystem is the intricate environmental relationship of soil, water, microorganisms, …